An additional 4 billion people in the world could be fed if land currently used to grow crops for livestock were given over to crops for human consumption, according to a new study.
The work of a team at the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, and published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the study says that 36 percent of the calories produced by the world’s crops are being used for animal feed … and only 12 percent of those calories ultimately contribute to the human diet (as meat and other animal products).
In the US two thirds of calories produced per acre of land are consumed by animals, rather than people. The authors of the study state that “the US agricultural system alone could feed 1 billion additional people by shifting crop calories to direct human consumption”.
With the global population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, it casts into stark relief the assessments made by some in the livestock and agricultural industries that the only way to feed the world is to increase production or use more efficient technology.
Rather the study underlines the fact that we already have enough to feed ourselves more efficiently and equitably, provided we grow crops for people, rather than animals – that is, that we eat less meat. “Even small shifts in our allocation of crops to animal feed and biofuels could significantly increase global food availability, and could be an instrumental tool in meeting the challenges of ensuring global food security,” the report’s authors state
More on the solution to feeding our planet's growing population below the fold.
Most are aware of the landmark UN study "Livestock's Long Shadow" which states that at least 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions globally are produced by the livestock sector. So in addition to the benefit of being a solution to world hunger, a reduction of livestock production would be a major contributor to mitigating the crisis of climate change.
United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) scientists, looking to increased weather instability due to climate change and increased future global populations, are sounding the alarm (pdf) about our unsustainable food system. They are recommending that over-consuming rich nations, particularly the U.S. and Europe at least, halve their consumption of animal protein to prevent destruction of our natural world due to water, land and air pollution and increased greenhouse gas emissions.
Indeed, leading water scientists from the The Stockholm International Water Institute are issuing a warning that food shortages in the future will dictate a global transition to vegetarian diets by 2050.
"There will not be enough water available on current croplands to produce food for the expected 9 billion population in 2050 if we follow current trends and changes towards diets common in western nations," the report by Malik Falkenmark and colleagues at The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) said.
Visionary humanitarian Frances Moore Lappe's first book was the iconic Diet for a Small Planet
first published in 1971. This book touched off a conversation which continues today: How to feed the world's people equitably so that no one in the world goes to bed hungry. Frances Lappe wrote that healthy food should be a human right and advocates for a reform of our inefficient food system to one of more efficient distribution by transitioning to a global vegetarian diet.
Indeed, as we move forward it's a good time to initiate the conversation with our families and friends about how we can all be part of the solution to feeding our planet's growing population and mitigating the crisis of climate change. The solution is on our plate.